December 10, 2018
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New sober living houses established in Maine as demand grows

Tammy Wells | Journal Tribune
Tammy Wells | Journal Tribune
Journey House founder and director of mission Jesse Harvey and Director of Women's Services Miranda Gilman stand at the door of the new women's sober living home in Sanford. Journey House opened a sober living home for men across town earlier this year.

SANFORD, Maine — What happens after rehabilitation for a dependency? Where does someone in recovery go? Will there be support and encouragement to continue on the path of sobriety?

At Journey House, the answer is yes.

Begun in Biddeford in December with a single sober living house for men, Journey House has expanded to Sanford, where a house for men opened a few months ago. As well, on Oct. 1, a sober house for women — believed to be the only one in York County — opened on a Sanford street across town.

The new sober house for women can accommodate four and the tidy apartment is full. Demand is heavy. Journey House Director of Women’s Services Miranda Gilman said she has a referral list of 30 women. She keeps in touch with six women, whom she encourages to call daily to see if a space has opened up.

“They’re very serious” about their recovery, she said of the six. And that daily check-in helps in the recovery process, she pointed out.

Chelsea Seguin arrived at Journey House from a residential rehabilitation center. A New Hampshire native, she said returning to that familiar place didn’t’ help in her recovery. But Journey House is making a difference.

“Miranda has made it so safe for us,” said Sue. “She genuinely cares about us and how we’re doing.”

Sue, another resident, gave up her apartment to come to the sober living house. She’d tried geographical changes, but that didn’t work for her.

“I’d decided I’d had enough,” she said.

There are rules — sobriety, of course; four meetings a week that can be a mix of 12-step programs, counseling, church functions and the like; a house meeting and more.

The men’s facility requires three meetings a week, plus the house meeting. There are drug tests for both programs — upon admission, weekly and at random. Folks must be working, volunteering or going to school.

Some residents of Journey House take prescribed recovery medications to aid in their sobriety, which are typically not allowed in other sober living situations, said Journey House founder and director of missions, Jesse Harvey,

For men and women recovering, low cost, low barrier programs like Journey House can go a long way, Harvey said.

Both Gilman and Harvey have their own stories of recovery. — Gilman will mark four years of sobriety early next year, while Harvey has been sober for more than two years. Gilman is active with Youth in Recovery and leads a peer support group at York County Shelter each week. Harvey is employed full-time in peer support at a Portland health center. Journey House director of operations Eric Skillings, who was working elsewhere during a reporter’s visit, is also in recovery.

“This is a stepping stone between treatment and independent living,” said Gilman.

Harvey said that stays at Journey House, which is not affiliated with other Journey House programs of the same name elsewhere in Maine and New England, are typically three to six months, though some stay longer.

As far as joining the sober living program, provided other criteria are met, someone who has been in recovery for as long as a year may be accepted, Harvey said.

The cost is $500 per month for the first three months; $450 for each of the following three months, and $400 a month after that, plus a $200 move-in fee.

Payment plans and scholarships may be available on a case by case basis, said Harvey.

At Sanford’s men’s sober house, two participants who lived there talked a bit about their circumstances and how they’re feeling about the program.

“In one word, it’s a blessing,” said John Moffett.

“Without this place, I’d be on the street,” said Steve Soucy. These days, he’s employed, and considers his housemates his family.

“I have no family; this is my family,” he said.

Moffett, like Seguin, removed himself from his hometown to aid his recovery.

“I’m surrounding myself with sober people,” he said.

At the women’s sober house, Gilman outlines another rule — no men in the apartment, not even on the porch, though she made an exception for Harvey, Journey House’s founder, when it came time for a photograph.

“I think personally men and women do better if the recovery is separated,” Gilman said. “Things that are may be triggers for women may be easier to talk about with other women.”

“A big thing I impress upon the women is honesty,” Gilman said. “If there are no open lines of communication, I’m unable to direct them to the resources they need.”

While the men’s house has a manager, the women’s does not as yet, and Gilman is taking on that role for present, and checks in with each resident daily.

“You’re a person, you’re a woman, not a disease,” said Gilman. “You’re not a thing; you’re a person with a disorder, trying to put some order back into it.”

“Once you start to do the right thing, always do the next right thing,” said Seguin. “It doesn’t have to be a struggle.”

“Recovery does happen when it’s supported,” Harvey said.

For more information go to Journey House Sober Living on Facebook, or call 502-9379.


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